Let’s start with the fashion. Here’s some images from a group that perfectly merges anarcho-hooliganism with mansy style and mansy flair. Os Cangaceiros were a Brazilian band of well… bandits that fought against the greedly landlords, stole from the rich and, naturally, gave to the poor. They also happened to love fashion, apparently to be a Cangaciero aside from the prereq of the thirst for blood and theft, you had to be adept at sewing and accessorizing. No joke, they were known for neurotically sewing colorful ribbons, bits of metal, coins, and anything shiny, really, to their garments, (a little passé but a classic in any century). Talk about haphazard accessories! As well, the most famous of the group, Lampião, was known for using an excessive amount of stolen French perfume; and incidentally, Os Cangaceiros were responsible for popularizing the xaxado dance, which I think was the 19th century Brazilian equivalent of the stanky leg…
Oh and speaking of dances, you’ve got to check out this video from Sgt Sass by way of Israel… it sort of changed my life, well at least how much I snap!
But yeah, Os Cangaceiros fashion is pretty amazing, and though their tale ends in tragedy they helped to lay the foundation for the Landless Movement, which is still going strong, as well as inspire generations of insurrectionists, illegalists, anarchists and hooligans. And I hate to say I told you so about the fashion tip, but seriously. I mean these locas were the real deal.
In fact, as a testament to their legacy, I recently read an amazing [article] posting on aaarg (heart heart) about a group of self-proclaimed French hooligans in the 1980′s and 90′s named Os Cangaceiros, just for clarity I’ll refer to them as the French Cangaceiros. Up until this article, I must confess I hadn’t a dream of a whisper that they had existed and considering how incredible, ridiculous, and sort of mind boggling they were, it’s really surprising more people aren’t talking about them… My favorite action they did I think is squatting a luxury condo, when asked why a luxury condo they simply replied that they had been enticed with luxury all their lives and they wanted to see it played out! When the police came to evict them, they had barricaded the doors with steel and in the hours that it took to weld through or whatever, they called their friends in the community who started a protest surrounding the cops who inevitably gave up.
The article is faaantastic as well, I think it gives a truly balanced look at what hooliganism adds to anarchism, as well as its short comings and lessons to be learned. For example, in the article is an account from a former French Cangaceiro/a, who discusses some of their successes and failures in dealing with the media. Most of their work was done against prisons, for example sabotaging railroads in solidarity with prison riots, but since they were mostly involved with banditry and the like they couldn’t go bragging about it so they naturally relied on the media to inform the people, which is the case for all acts of symbolic property destruction. But the cops told the media to not publish any of their cray cray, which effectively made those types of actions moot.
In contrast, their most popular and successful action, in their own eyes, involved stealing the plans of a new prison that was going up and publishing them in a pamphlet called 13,000 belles, since the new prison was to have 13,000 new cells. Instead of their usual guns ablaze (literally) tactics, this time they just brought up that there are a ton of these leeching architects and other profiteers rubbing their hands as the poor are locked away and then sat back and let the people decide what was too be done, albeit with a sketchiness that no one other than a hooligan would bring. They took the pamphlet, discovered weaknesses where people could escape (li.ter.a.lly) and circulated it in cafes, and basically everywhere, totally circumnavigating the press and creating what the media call “a buzz” that was impossible to ignore. When the media did take note, they had no choice but to side with the Cangaceiros since the entire city had as well, and the media ended up printing unabridged letters from the collective, complimenting them on their organizational skills (what?!) and basically painting them as modern Robin Hoods, romantic outlaws and friends of the people.
Yo. Read the article, they’re amahzing… dancing on the roofs of prisons, traveling around the world sabotaging the state, and thousands of other pranks and acts of grifter goodness and then getting away (that’s right) scot free. I mean what group of roving bandits have you ever heard about getting away?! Even Robin Hood had to sell out to the state eventually, not to mention the endless list of martyred hooligans… sigh.
WHICH BRINGS ME TO MY POINT.
Everybody’s talking about insurrectionism these days, mumble mumble catastrophe of totality mumble love in the wreckage mumble mumble burning riot hallway dumpster etc etc etc. You hear it e.ver.y.where. I mean, ever since I picked up Killing King Abacus a million years ago, I’ve been enduring this insurrectionist mumbling, I mean seriously, have you ever talked with Texas? Talk about mumblecore.
But enunciation aside, I read The Coming Insurrection and The Call, by the Invisible Committee and have to say, I’m deeeply disturbed… well more deeply annoyed than anything, especially with their crappy name, “their” royal we, and most of all their neocommunism.* I really don’t want to get into all my criticisms, but at this point I’ve brought up insurrectionism mainly for how it informs hooliganism.
I do like a good bit about the Invisible Committee’s writings, their disgust for radical purity and the discussion of the anarchist scene turning into a new code of behaviors, but their pipe dream that insurrection, or even hooliganism, is the only form of valid radicalism just plain smacks of privilege. There are moments, of course, to riot, but not all riots aid the destruction of the state. Sometimes, in the case of the ’68 DNC, cops riot, or other times fascists riot, bigots burn dumpsters and barricade hallways, the kkk smashes windows… there’s nothing liberating in these acts, other than adrenaline, they are just tactics, nothing more. And seriously, we all know who is most attracted to riots… cicgendered strait white boys, I wonder why!
What is liberating is what the French Cangaceiros, or the o.g. Os Cangaceiros did, which is create a sustained hooliganism, take these tactics and string them together in a meaningful way. This sustained hooliganism can’t be taught in a book! And it certainly can’t be achieved through guilting people with propagandistic theory! Both the above examples were of hooligans turned radical, not the other way around. It’s actually pretty offensive to think that some fools can say, ‘hey be a hooligan, go break a window and steal for a living, it’s no thing.’ It is a thing! People are getting killed, or their lives are being ruined everyday who don’t succeed at living the hooligan dream, and then some worms living in books decide to take it on? What both Os Cangaceiros groups demonstrate is that it took criminals, genuine day one criminals to succeed at being bandits long enough to make an impact. And as much as I wish these tactics could immediately dismantle the power of the state like out of Harry Potter or something, they don’t, and the hundreds of thousands of people imprisoned right now are a testament to that.
When it comes to hooliganism, I think you can either be an anarchist or a hooligan, you just can’t be both. You can be a sketchy or grifty anarchist or even a sassy pirate-type anarchist or something, but being a hooligan is a career path! And the goals of each are vastly different, though both necessary. As I see it, the goals of hooliganism are the creation of inspirational moments that transcend all of the state’s mythology and physical force and the beauty of these moments in turn inspires people to rise up themselves. It’s a sort of shooting the moon scenario, but you’ve only got to be one smooth operator otherwise you’re fucked! The goal of the anarchist, the radical theorist, the organizer, the farmer, the artist, the feminist, the sex worker etc! etc! is more based in therapy. The therapy that gives us the strength to carry on and understand and fight by any means necessary against the oppression and alienation that surrounds us. That therapy creates the conditions for hooligans to even begin their struggle, shares the stories of inspirational hooligans and creates the community that they fall back on for support. And it’s a cliché, but we really do need each other. Well, honestly, hooligans need anarchists a little more, but who’s counting!
The Os Cangaceiros called them coiteiros, people that helped out the Cangaceiros and who the Cangaceiros were bandit-ing for in the first place. Without them, the Cangaceiros (o.g. or French) would never have lasted a day. It’s that relationship, between the hooligans and the coiteros that should be further explored, how can we create communities that foster hooligans that will in turn keep the community in mind when they are out hooligan-ing? And how can the goals of hooligans and the goals of anarchists coalesce to create a situation where both radical romanticism and therapy based tactics work hand in hand?